Athlete Partnerships and Brands

Panel Members:

Tim Edwards, Public Figures, Sports and Athletes – TikTok
Matt Riches, Head of Partnerships – Lucozade Ribena Suntory
Lucy Englander, Group Partnerships Director – Saracens Rugby

What makes a great partnership between athletes, clubs and brands and how do they use social media such as TikTok to develop their relationships and profile?

For Matt Riches everything relates to the aim of the business: “It all comes back to the fact that we are in the business of selling drinks.” So how do they decide which athletes can help them achieve improve sales? “We look at all their different metrics, what they do on social media, what they do on the pitch. But we really need to get to know the person.”

Riches was keen to emphasise a long-standing relationship: “Anthony Joshua has worked really well for us. Now, it’s a real business relationship.”

Lucy Englander said that her role at Saracens covered their men’s and women’s rugby union teams, plus Mavericks netball team. “Brands are wanting to be involved in women’s sport. There is an untapped market there.”

“A good sponsor is one who is really activating the sponsorship.”

Tim Edwards outlined the importance of sport to his company. He mentioned TikTok’s sponsorships at the men’s and women’s football European Championships and the Six Nations rugby.

Athletes are creating content on TikTok to grow their profile, which also benefits the brands they are linked with. “We help shine a light on culture,” he said. “We have an eco-system of athletes on the app. Sharing what their life as an athlete is like.”

He pointed out the demographics of TikTok users. “It is a uniquely young user base of sports fans as well as a really high percentage of female users. Those users are watching 80 minutes each day of content on the app.”

“Sports rights and highlights really work on TikTok when they can use the app and put their own spin on it,” he said. “In rugby, Joe Marler messed up a line out, but he used the voiceover tool and he did it in a very funny and self-deprecating manner and that ended up generating more positive press coverage for him.”

For a club to grow their presence on social media, Englander said it was important for a club to choose their athletes carefully. “Work with those that are interested. Show the human side of the athletes and that will grow their social presence.”

An athlete who is attuned to the latest trends can use those to their benefit. Riches said, “There is an eco-system of trends…around sounds, features, filters. A large part for an athlete is how can you jump on those trends and make it about yourself and your life as an athlete?”

He picked out Arsenal and England star Bukayo Saka’s use of TikTok at the World Cup, behind the scenes in the England camp, quizzing players on their spelling.

Englander asked Riches how Saracens should launch on TikTok. He had plenty of ideas: “Think about how you storyboard around match day, build up and post-game. Encourage content creation, get fans to emulate kicking like Owen Farrell for example. People massively over-think how they launch on TikTok. It might be a low-level launch is the most successful.”